“I suppose I’ll repeat what I said multiple times in this document, which is that running a small social network site for your friends is hard work, but it’s worth it. It is first and foremost the work of community building, and only secondarily is it a technical endeavor. And it’s completely possible to do, today, though depending on who you are and what your resources are it’s going to be difficult in different ways.”-Darius Kazemi, “Run Your Own Social Network.” runyourown.social. July 8, 2019
The net: Get five friends together. Open a lightweight account at a hosting provider like Masto.host for $100/year and see how it develops.
It is possible to meet the needs of a 5 person group in something like group chat in Signal or another messaging application. However, it is difficult to grow these groups without compromising the dynamic.
The advantage of hosting it on a Mastodon server is that is provides a scalable platform to grow up to 50 users. If you have a hosting provider, it cuts down on the technical skill necessary to run the server, but you will have to give up the ability to customize the software to your community’s needs. For most circumstances, this is a reasonable trade off.
Of course, you can roll your own on a virtual server or an old PC you have laying around. However, old PCs fail, as do old PC administrators. Do yourself a favor and outsource the work for $100.